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A Quirky and Entertaining Story
on 16 November 2017
Fleur Talbot, a well-known author, looks back on her earlier life to a time in 1949-1950 when she'd not yet had her first novel published and was living in a small bedsit paid with by wages earned from temporary secretarial work. Needing to earn some extra money to support her whilst she works on her novel, Fleur takes a job working for the eccentric Sir Quentin Oliver, who is the president of the Autobiographical Association, and who Fleur soon begins to realize is not quite the harmless eccentric he first appears. Lording it over a group of bizarre individuals who have joined the association in order to write their own biographies, Sir Quentin's agenda is not immediately clear to Fleur, but when she is typing up the members' manuscripts and he encourages her embellishments of their memories, Fleur begins to have doubts about his motives. As Fleur juggles her job with writing her novel and trying to avoid the mostly unwelcome visits of her lover's wife, she becomes very good friends with Sir Quentin's elderly and rather outlandish mother, Lady Edwina, who takes every opportunity possible to aggravate her son and to deflate his exaggerated opinion of himself. When Fleur's manuscript of her novel disappears, she has the uncomfortable feeling that its disappearance has something to do with the manipulative Sir Quentin, and when one of the association members dies in a manner similar to that of one of the characters in Fleur's novel, she begins to wonder if Sir Quentin's motives are more sinister than she'd imagined...
Full of unusual characters living unconventional lives, Muriel Spark's sharply-observed 'Loitering with Intent' is a quirky and entertaining story with a touch of the gothic to it. Although partly autobiographical and the author's cast of off-beat characters are oddly believable, it's not a story to be taken too seriously (though there are deeper and darker layers here if you look for them) and if you take it in the spirit with which is was written then there is quite a lot to enjoy in this unusual little novel.